June 12, 2008
ML Playoff Game 9
Haganís Funeral Homes: 11
Campbellís Boat House: 0
Haganís Returns to Championship
The situation is very simple, really. Lose and go home, or win and play on. The mathematics are equally elementary: Strong pitching plus hot hitting, sprinkled with a few intangibles like heart, perseverance and an ability to overcome adversity, equals one more game.
Facing elimination from the 2008 playoffs (and the end of 7 playersí Little League careers) for the third straight game, Haganís Funeral Homes once again followed the winning formula. They got timely hitting from the top to the bottom of the batting order. Bryan Leonard (3 for 3, HR, BB, 4 RBI) led the way on offense. Jack Norton (2 for 2), Cal Samson (2 for 3), Connor Martin (2 for 4, 2 doubles, RBI), Michael Solomon (2 for 4, RBI), Russell Rhoads (1 for 2, HR, 2 RBI), and Justin Troilo (1 for 2, 2 RBI) all made huge contributions to the offensive effort.
On the defensive side, Brian Gross (5.33 IP, 3 H, 9 K, 3 BB) drew on his 3 years of Major League playoff pitching experience to keep the imposing Campbellís lineup off balance all night long. When he ran up against his pitch count limit, Ethan Heller did more of the same, striking out the last two Campbell batters.
Once again, Haganís sprinted from the gate, scoring four runs before a single out was recorded. Gross led off the top of the first with a ground rule double down the left field line. That was followed by a single by Solomon, a double by Martin, and Leonardís second home run blast in as many games. All nine Hagan batters came to the plate in the inning, but there was no further damage.
The 4-0 score held until the top of the 4th. Thatís when Samson and Solomon both singled, Martin stroked his second double of the night, Leonard singled, and Rhoads powered a 2-run jack over the left-centerfield fence. In all, Haganís tallied 5 more runs in the inning, extending their lead to 9-0. Haganís hopes for another rally in the top of the 5th were cut short by a spectacular diving catch by Jason McLarney in shallow left field, but they tacked on two more insurance runs in the top of the 6th. With Leonard and Heller on 3rd and 2nd, Troilo got the green light on a 3-0 count and smacked a 2-RBI single up the middle.
Showing the winning attitude that earned them a 3rd-place finish in the MLL regular season, Campbellís continued to play hard to the finish. In the bottom of the 5th, they mounted their most serious scoring threat of the evening. Daniel Enterlin led off with a single followed by a Jack Keffer walk. The runners advanced to second and third bases with no outs, but they were stranded there. Gross struck out the next batter. Then Heller made a running catch of a pop fly in shallow center field and threw to Martin at second base to double up Keffer who was running on the play.
With one out and Gross approaching his 85-pitch limit in the bottom of the 6th, Campbellís put two more runners on base with a Dan Grandieri single and John Ferruzzi walk. Thatís when Heller came in to turn off the lights and lock the door on Haganís 11-0 victory.
With their win, Haganís advances to the Major League championship to face regular-season champion Carman Insurance. This is a rematch of last yearís championship teams, only this time the roles are reversed. Last year Carman came from the 6th seed to win it all. This year, 4th seed Haganís is hoping that history truly does repeat itself.